Q: I am going to feed my perennials and shrubs with cotton seed meal this spring. Is it too early to begin?
A: One of the great things about using organic fertilizers like cottonseed meal, composted hen manure, blood meal, etc is that nutrients are released only when the soil warms up. If you put 10-10-10 on your plants now, the first rain will dissolve the chemicals and they will be wasted if the plant roots are cold. Organic fertilizers, on the other hand, depend on soil bacteria to decompose them and release nutrients.
As you can imagine, there is a lag time between when roots are able to absorb nutrients and the time bacteria fully digest and release the nutrients from organic materials. You can get around that by putting a one-half inch layer of cottonseed meal under your plants now and then scattering a one-half cup of 10-10-10 per 100 sq. ft. over the landscape in late March. In this way your plants will get “breakfast” in March and a”big dinner” in April-May.